Businesses turn to digital to emerge out of the Covid-19 crisis5 min read . Updated: 08 Dec 2020, 05:56 PM IST
- A virtual panel discussion titled ‘Hit Refresh: Business Resilience in a post-Covid World’, powered by SAP and Livemint, discusses success mantras for ensuring business continuity in these testing times.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it a host of uncertainties for organisations across industries, who have had to adapt and reinvent their business models to keep up with changing customer demands and to meet the growing expectations of the new-age consumer living in a world of instant gratification.
Episode 4 of titled ‘Hit Refresh: Business Resilience in a post-Covid World’, a virtual panel discussion powered by SAP and Livemint, brought together experts from a cross section of industries to discuss the role digitization can play to help organizations survive and emerge stronger from the crisis.
Some of the biggest challenges faced during the pandemic and the lockdown imposed to slow down its spread were disruption in supply chains and manpower which in turn affected production lines. For some industries, a strong dependence on China for raw materials posed further problems.
“One of the key challenges we faced in the pharmaceutical industry was the supply of raw material and its prices. About 70 per cent of the supply of APIs and intermediates comes from China which was very badly affected and the price of a basic drug like paracetamol became 3-4 times in a matter of a few months. Maintaining the same price of the finished goods to the end consumers was a big challenge we faced," said Kush Gupta, Director, Brawn Laboratories Limited.
Consumer behaviour has also changed with Covid-19 and consumers are fast moving from traditional owner models to pay-per-use models. “People are uncertain about what is going to happen. They would like to keep the inventory to as low as possible and also have better credit terms," Gupta added.
Others had to completely alter their core business models to tide over shrinking demand and changing customer demographics. Take the case of Shiv Naresh Sports, a traditional active sportswear company that had to change its core business model from active sportswear to passive sportswear as all major sports events including the Olympics got called off due to the pandemic.
“The lockdown had a lot of uncertainty. Retail sales dropped, production came to a halt and it took time to gather the workforce back, and orders which usually come in by July were missing till September," said Aakanksha Pawar, Chief Executive Officer, Shiv Naresh Sports.
“We launched our website just before the lockdown and started focusing on passive sportswear, thereby changing our core business area. We started with 20 orders per day and are now at 120 orders per day. Moving out of the conventional zones of the business is the only way to survive," she added.
The company took to social media to stay connected with the consumers through Facebook live sessions and special yoga lessons by experts.
With the advent to digital, consumer expectations have gone up and companies like Dr Lal’s Path Labs are figuring out new ways on how to keep customers satisfied.
“The first change that we observed in a big way was that demand pattern shifted to home visit requests and there was a sudden surge in home sample collections. Plus, Covid was such a test where patients could not have been called to crowded locations. People also wanted to reduce the length of contact," said Om Prakash Manchanda, Managing Director, Dr Lal Path Labs.
The company has a network of 200 labs spread across the country which are all connected using technology. The business changed to consumer applications from enterprise applications, payments started happening online and reports are now completely online. On the anvil is a SMS tracker to offer consumers the estimated time of report. But this comes with its own share of challenges.
“One of the biggest challenge I have today is to enhance the digital quotient of my own company as we are a company which is not very young. We have legacy talent, medical talent and lifting awareness about technology is a huge challenge while consumer benchmarks are very different and you are compared to the Amazons of the world," Manchanda explained.
The pandemic has also placed the spotlight on health and immunity. While digitization for the ayurvedic and Unani industry has been on the anvil for ages, it has got a strong push in the from the government post lockdown, to modernize this industry.
“To know how the consumer is behaving is very difficult in these times. We have been closely monitoring the consumer’s behaviours keeping track through customer research and have been trying to give them the product they require in these times and immunity is a major focus area," said Hamid Ahmed, CEO, Hamdard Laboratories India.
Hamdard recently brought out the age-old product Roohafza in an all-new avatar – in a tetra pack as a milk shake. “It has done well because of the increased demand in the milk category. For any new product launched in the health space, the first preference is to call it an immunity booster. The honey category has also seen a lot of launches during this time and so have we," Ahmed said.
The shift to digital has got accelerated and organizations across businesses are fast making a switch to use technology to tide over the slowdown caused by the pandemic. Technology is being leveraged to transform businesses and drive experience to the customers, a trend that is being seen across geographies.
“Technology is really playing a big role in addressing the changing preferences and behaviours of customers. The share of e-commerce in the retail segment has increased from 6 to 16 per cent over the last 10 years from 2010-2020 and in the last six months alone, that share has gone from 16 to 27 per cent," said Parvesh Ghai, Vice President, North East and Bangladesh, SAP Indian Subcontinent.
In the future, digitization has a major role to play in futureproofing their businesses to prepare for such shocks even as the digital bar has moved very high, owing to benchmarks set by the likes of Amazon and Netflix. What is important is getting the right talent, training the talent, and keeping focus on areas of data protection and safety.
“The way we have been doing business has radically changed during these times and some of the processes will become our new normal," said Ahmed.
The areas of focus are different for different industries. While the pharma sector will be focussing on indigenisation of raw materials and bringing down dependence on China, diagnostic labs like Dr Lal’s want to widen their footprint beyond north India. But the common thread that runs across industries is that digital is the tool that is going to pave the way for the future.